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A Tough Ending To My First Year As An Entrepreneur

Dec 29th, 2006 | By | Category: Entrepreneurship, Happiness, Peace, Personal Stories

I haven’t talked about this on my blog. In fact, I haven’t spoken about this to anyone but my closest friends.

But I’m going through a real tough time – professionally.

And I’ve wrestled with talking about it on this blog for a long long time … A part of me thinks that putting my vulnerabilities out there will hurt my professional image.

But another part says that the readers of this blog are my friends. Or at least, they think of me in a positive light … that’s why they’re reading this blog. And they’ll appreciate the fact that I talk about not just the good times, but the tough ones.

And here’s the biggest argument for discussing this on my blog – I bet someone else is going through (or will) the same kind of shit. And if even one person learns from my experiences and it helps them, it’ll be worth the loss of privacy.

So, without further ado … let’s begin this soap opera.

T Minus 4 Months: It all started when …

I decided to put myself on the line. A few months ago, when I had 2-3 months of savings left in my account to live, I decided to go for the gold. Now, as a consultant I depend on projects all the time to keep me going.

But I didn’t wanna live a month to month kinda life. That was one of my biggest goals when I started my own business. And all this while, my plan had been to write and sell an e-book that would provide me passive (well, relatively passive) income. And when I could grow that business big enough to cover my expenses, then I’ll think of bigger ventures.

But that book had been stuck for a year. I hadn’t gotten any progress all this while. What I needed was a big push to get it started, and that’s why I’d put myself on the line.

So, to recap – I had about 3 months of savings in my account and I decided it was time to take the plunge. I started writing the book gung-ho.

Every day, I’d be in office till 11 in the night … just furiously typing away. I had a stack of 15 reference books covering my desk. For every one page of content I’d write, I’d have to do cross-referencing for about 20 minutes to ensure that I had covered all the points I wanted … and that the writing wasn’t similar to anything else already printed (I don’t wanna get sued for accidental plagiarism!).

I thought I was making great progress. In just a few short weeks, I had typed out about 20,000 words of my book. That’s the most I’ve ever done!

But being my first book, I didn’t realize the amount of effort that would be involved in finishing it. After the first few weeks, I slipped into a writing rut. I would find myself sitting in front of the screen, unable to think of anything to write.

T Minus 2 Months: Halfway into my sob story …

Before I could blink, 2 months had passed. For two whole months, all I had been doing was working on my book – I hadn’t done any consulting work (which brings in the cheques), and I had conveniently ignored the joint venture projects which were supposed to bring in the big money.

And so I started panicking a little bit. To be honest, I can’t really call it panicking … this year, I’ve gotten such good control over my worries that you could throw me into a pool of sharks and it would still take me 15 minutes to freak out (Oh yeah, I can’t swim).

But I did start to get concerned. I figured – it’s time to put a stop to the writing and find some work to do. But instead of finding new work, I decided to finish up the work on some long term projects that were lying in my portfolio.

And at that point, I fell sick. Not I-have-a-cold-and-need-panadol kinda sick. More like Shit-It’s-That-Chronic-Disease-I-Have-That-Paralyzes-Me kinda sick.

If you don’t already know, I suffer from a chronic condition that strikes from time to time … and puts me out of commission for 1-2 weeks. And this was not a good time for it to arrive.

Still … I kept my cool about my bad health. I’ve learnt to deal with this condition (in fact, I managed to reduce its attacks by 90% this last year), and so I knew that there was, in fact, light at the end of the tunnel.

So, recap time … 2 months after I started putting myself on the line. I have now grown sick of writing (my book project is still only 40% done), I’m running out of money to live. And I now have to shift attention to other projects to make rent.

The Last Two Months – When god craps, a whole lotta shit falls from above ….

Now, I’m not all broke. I had planned for some contingencies – I was supposed to receive a rather large payment for some work I had done for a client. It was ongoing work, and I had been doing all that was required from my side to keep the project going.

That client refused to pay me.

They had some silly logic, about them not having put the best effort in … so the results weren’t up to the mark. What shit! I provided a service which we decided in the beginning of the engagement, and I ought to get paid for it. At that point, I was not in a position to be gracious and write that invoice off – I had depended on it to pay the bills! In fact, as I’m writing this … my anger from that incident is welling back up.

But after arguing with them for several hours, I decided it wasn’t worth the time to hire a lawyer and go after them. But I would – as my idol Perry Marshall would say – “Fire Your Worst Customers”. So, I gave them a half an hour speech about how they would have this on their conscience and they’re not allowed to be my customers ever again. I made them feel really guilty for not keeping up to their part of the deal, and not following the terms of the contract. And I took away some very important lessons about planning contingencies.

Two other long-term projects I had taken on … required me to work right now. But I would get paid only early next year. Because I expected to have enough money to pay my bills, I had forgone cash payment in these deals … for a percentage of sales (I thought I was making a smart choice!).

My book still has so much work left. Despite the 300+ hours I’ve already put in, another 200 are required.

I had discussions for a few consulting gigs in the pipeline … but everyone disappeared in mid Jan for the holidays, and I’m left in a lurch.

So, I was now working on these two projects – with no hope of getting money out of them, and money running out from my savings.

And working day and night to get these done … I had caught a bout of insomnia. I couldn’t fall asleep before 6AM … and I couldn’t wake up before 2PM. The gloomy climate, cool wind and constant rain didn’t help in getting me out of bed.

So, today … at 5 in the morning I’m writing this message because I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep because I got too many projects in my to-do list, and related anxieties on my mind. And as the new year comes closer, there are still many many unknowns about whether I can survive another two months without taking on a project.

Are you crying for me yet?

Life as an entrepreneur is bloody hard. When I was an employee … I would work hard a few months … bum off a few months … and still get paid all those months.

Now, there’s nothing to fall back on. My friends and mom urge me to take on a job … It’s hard to explain to them, that the shit I’m going through is a rite of passage. If I quit now, then I’ll have to go through it another day … when I’m older and have more responsibilities.

Uncertainty is now the rule … rather than the exception … and I haven’t yet gotten used to it.

“So, why don’t I give up and get a regular job? What still keeps me going?”

Well, I’m glad you asked Johnny! I was reading one of Alvin’s posts on Life Coaches Blog … and he talked about how to get through tough times.

There are many strategies I use every single day … to keep up my mood and keep going towards my goal. And even though I painted a nice long sob story for you up there, to be honest, I’m really quite happy most of the day.

Yes, there are many many uncertainties in my life. Things didn’t go as planned. But I’ve learned that happiness is a choice. And even in seemingly tough situations, you and I can choose to laugh, and be merry.

Of course, it’s not an easy thing to learn. The whole process of moving towards nirvana is a constant process – which I’m still going through. But there are some things that we can tell ourselves, little nuggets of wisdom that help me get closer every day.

And the whole reason why I shared my story here … is that if anyone out there has similar troubles happen in their life, they can browse through my list of resources I use in tough times … and maybe it will help them too.

So, here are the 7 things I tell myself that keep me going in tough times:

  1. Shit happens. It’s a certainty in business and life. Especially in business. It really sucks and you can’t help but feel sorry for yourself. But after a while, you have no choice but to get up and keep going – it’s a better option than sitting in the hole and crying.
  2. Have faith in yourself. You’ve always been successful in other areas of your life. Heck – you chose to take on a tough path of starting a business! That itself makes you more successful than everyone else!
  3. Health. Wealth. Love. I’m doing well in 2 out of three. My health is doing well, I get regular exercise and food. My love life’s looking up and I’m very close to my friends and family. 1 out of 3 aint’ bad at all. I thank the heavens (and my own decisions) for having good stuff in my life.
  4. What’s the worst that could happen. Seriously. In the worst case, I’ll borrow some money from dad and find a job. That’s all … with my brains and charm, it won’t take me more than a month to find a good job.
  5. You’ve made the right decisions. You chose to write a book instead of a typical project. You chose long-term JV projects over short-term schemes. You stuck to your guns and didn’t accept tempting job offers. Making decisions was easy. Now, I gotto stick by them.
  6. You’re not a quitter. Gates, Jobs, Buffet, Kennedy … these guys didn’t quit on their projects. They stayed with them until the flowers bloomed and they got the enjoy the fruits of their gardening.
  7. It’s gonna be a great story. When you get out of this rut, you can tell it to other people … and maybe , just maybe … it will help someone else get through a tough time in their life.

I’d like to think that if we all collectively wish good things for our friends, the universe will find a way to make the good stuff happen. And I hope that after reading this story, you take a second to wish me and every other reader of this blog … and send us all your good energy for 2007.

I know I’m gonna be doing the same for you :)

28 comments
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  1. I’m sure 2007 will be your best year ever. I came across your blog via a Google Alert email for one of my keywords. Talk about the law of attraction, I just received Perry Marshall’s newsletter tonight and just finished reading Perry Marshall’s “Sometimes You’ve Just Gotta Fire a Customer” again.

    I had an opportunity to see Perry speak and personally met him at the Marketing Madness Live Seminar in Atlanta a few weeks ago. He’s the real thing and socially conscious as well. What Perry mentioned is a little hilarious and yet so true regarding the need for firing clients from time to time.

    Thanks for being transparent and sharing your challenges publicly. There is much to be learned from your experiences for the rest of us.

    Wishing you life’s best!

  2. Hi, glad to know there is another entrepreneur in singapore!

    Not too sure if i can be label as a entrepreneur, but i started out my own business 2.5 years ago. It is an internet portal development company, raydengrid.com.

    Some of my friends even label me as crazy 2.5 year ago, when i having a stable and good job which i will eventually climb up to be operational manager. But i quit my job.

    I still remember i take on the business with another partner. and we are rather green and inexperience in setting business and to get business. It was rather bad, i was without salary for half a year. You can say that my spirit dive southward, that is one of my lowest point, coupled with that my partner left for a job as his bank account was being suck dry. I was left alone in my battle.

    i had to work as salesman selling courses as part time, at the same times, to work on a few projects for the company. It was tough, averaging around 5 hours of sleep for each day.

    Life at that times was tough, sometimes i just tell myself it just not flair, i working my shit out and i earning just a misery salary, but lucky i managed to keep myself going. And now, when i think about, i can proudly tell the world, even i suffer in term of lack of sleep, money and time but i get something even more vaubleable and that is experience and now i’m a more tougher guy!

    Life is getting better and i looking forward to year 2007 where i believed it will be a great year for us! There will be a few great projects on hand which might rock.

    Hope that you can mind me for all this bla bla bla… It just seeing your blog triggers my emotion. :)
    anyway if you have any project that is worth exploring, just drop me a email, i will be glad to offer any help!

    P.S. Now i also writing my own book on setting up of business, but it on a on/off mode. think need to set the completion of the book as one of my year 2007 resolution!

  3. *hugs dearie*

  4. Hey! Wow, I didn’t expect people to respond – thank you all for your messages :)

    J – hugs & msg received :) … ’nuff said.

    Fredrick – That’s a great story mate. I can sense the tough times you went through … and the light at the end of the tunnel you’ve seen. And I’m sure that anyone who’s survived that will get to their goals soon :) … G’luck to you too!

    Yokee – You’ve met Perry Marshall?? That’s so cool =) … He’s been my inspiration for years for being such an honest marketer. One of my goals is to make my own businesses successful enough to join his inner circle coaching :D

    As I’m writing this comment, I just finished seeing the movie “Ray” for the first time. It’s a touching story of how the singer Ray Charles fought outer demons (black-white segregation, a new kind of music) and inner demons (heroin addiction) … and when he conquered them, the change was permanent. Great story …

    And just before he made the breakthrough … there was one thing he did – he accepted everything that was wrong there. And when he talked to himself and put all the thoughts in his head out there … the solution just became apparent.

    I think I’ve done the same – the positive will now start flowing out :)

    Anybody else got anything to say?

  5. Rachit, it’s been a while since we met. I’ve always thought you were smart and brave…in other words, a kindred soul :p but I didn’t know you were forging those qualities in a trial of fire.

    Hmm I’m going through a health, wealth, love thing right now too, with 2 out of 3 not bad and 1 causing the big problem. It’s tough…and I felt the exact same challenge as you did: stay quiet and hopefully look perfect, or come out and risk looking like just another human being :)

    Looks like we both made the same choice…like I said, I always thought you were a kindred spirit.

    (Haha just what is it that makes me write this way to you…must be your engaging style that’s brought it out)

    My best, Rachit. Finish the book, sooner or later, it’s a good move. My best :)

  6. I hit, I fell, climbed myself out and then only to be hit and fell again…. if there is no tough going for anyone that steps out of their comfort zone to run their own business, God forbids, it is not a step worth taking then.

    There are many instances that I just wish to give it all up, hang up the boots and go get a job, or get back my old job. One that flys half the world every 1,2 months, stays in posh hotels, eat in fancy places, much money to spare in pockets (yeah both of them), paid several times than peers around my age. But it is also these that made me put on my boots to become a bootstrapper myself starting up a lost and found company, BAK2u.com

    After 1.5years things start to turn around a bit but the struggling is still there, the tears are all dried up, the fear has turned into fearless coz when you hit rock bottom …. what’s the next thing to do? Bounce back, hard.

    What you are going thru is most likely similar to anyone that steps out of the comfort zone, but in different forms and shapes but the pain, fear, tears are the same. But the results may not be the same, some chose to run, to escape, some bite on and strike it out fighting the everyday’s battles and hopefully in the end, wins the war.

    Paddy Tan
    CEO
    BAK2u Pte Ltd
    BAK2u.com

    P.S. – Check out this site:, http://www.bootstrapme.com/

  7. Thanks Alvin and Paddy,

    Paddy – I like the link you sent me, very useful to be reminded of bootstrapping all the time =) … “some chose to run & to escape, some bite on and strike it out fighting the everyday battles”

    Alvin – Haha … what a great cycle, I get inspired by your post. Hopefully I made a difference to you :) … and I loved this comment of yours. Really brings out every blogger’s dilemma … “stay quiet and hopefully look perfect, or come out and risk looking like just another human being”

  8. If you ever hear the negative voice talking… just do the things that I always done…tell the voice to just:

    SHUT THE FUCK UP!!

    Just like you, I’ve rejected job offers to stay on my dream. Just like you, I was not paid my due. Just like you, I have to live on a shoestring and have to live from end to mouth month to month.

    Hey dude, it’s no big deal. Remember that the lightbulb has to want to change or stay screwed! Thanks to your father’s NLP joke haha….

    I love your optimism and your looking towards possiblilty. Take heart and take care.

    2007 is your year….maybe I’ll just tag along a little yeah?

  9. [...] My buddy, Rachit, just pubished a post about his travails as an online entrepreneur. It’s quite a good read. Head over to: A Tough Ending To My First Year As An Entrepreneur [...]

  10. hey rachit.


    I’d like to think that if we all collectively wish good things for our friends, the universe will find a way to make the good stuff happen. And I hope that after reading this story, you take a second to wish me and every other reader of this blog … and send us all your good energy for 2007.

    here’s a hard reality check.

    what is up with this ‘wish good things for our friends’ bullshit.

    either help your friend if they need help.
    or don’t.

    a ‘wish’ is on the same level as a ‘try’.

    if you wish and take action on it. it’s not longer a wish anymore.

    it’s ‘manifest destiny’, it’s ‘will to power’.

    God helps those who take MASSIVE action.

    not self-victimizers nor procrastinators.
    those are destined to a life of not achieving their goals.

    it’s good to talk about taking up passion projects, or not being motivated by money. but that only works when you have a couple of million dollars in the bank.


    i think what you’re going through is a good experience that will make you stronger in the face of achievements you’d going to step up to.

    you’re out of the ‘honeymoon’ period of being an entrepreneur.

    welcome to the cold, hard reality.
    the good thing is that you can remake reality to your favor.
    the bad news is that it takes much more than wishing.

    you can say 7 things, or 777 things to yourself when the fit hits the shan.

    but what counts in large amounts is specific, measurable action. gobs of it.

    get out of your emotional wallowing pit, get out of park mode, shift and accelerate and move yourself into overdrive.

    you’re smarter than this, you’re more capable than this, and damn it, we both like borat!

    make a commitment, take immediate action, and as you see your new reality, you may notice that everyone is brighter and shinier.
    shift to an intensity 10.

    go out there and kick ass.

  11. Rachit
    Great post, I stumbled upon your site using google keyword alerts. I thought for a minute I was reading my own:) You have the passion and the drive you will get there. I have gone through much of the same, except I didn’t stop the first time. I have started businesses all my life and at a time felt like I was a nut case for doing it over and over again. But each time I started one, I went through different walls and most of them found my way through to the other side by hanging in there and not giving up! The one thing that has helped me get through is of course my faith and most of all the passion but the talent of being able to balance all those things I piled on my plate.

    As I was reading your post I could see the very same thing. Your attention was being given to just one thing, the thing that would take the longest and by doing it you were showing no income. Balance the jobs, keep the income coming in and then you can add the third part back into your life of the “Health, Love and Wealth”

    It might not be total wealth but it keeps your life in balance!
    Good Luck

  12. Haha … thanks for your comments dude.

    ——-

    Andrew, I loved your Matrix post – what you said about smart people thinking too much really struck a chord.

    “Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.”
    – Arnold H. Glasgow

    I do believe in that ‘wish good things for your friends bullshit’. Like we’ve talked about many times, enjoying the journey is more important than getting to the destination for me. And having supportive friends & family cheering us on does help.

    Don’t worry, I’m not in an “emotional wallowing pit”. But every failure (as small as a bout of the flu … or as big as the loss of a loved one) requires a period of controlled mourning … to maintain our emotional balance. It will eventually come back to haunt us, unless we get it out of our head ON OUR TERMS (i use my blog for that).
    —————

    Papa Pete, I love your “SHUT THE FUCK UP” analogies :) … Thanks for the (strange) pep talk, you know I love you

    If any of you were wondering what Pete was talking about with NLP and bulbs, here was a little insider NLP joke my dad sent to me …

    Question: How many NLP practitioners does it take to change a light bulb?
    Answer: Only one. But the light bulb has to WANT to change.
    And finally to my dad – thanks for the link I loved it.

    ————-

    And finally to my dad. I don’t know if he read this post, or just sensed from 2000 miles away that I could use some support.

    He sent me this really cool forward. It’s a 3 minute flash story, quite inspiring … do check it out everyone, if you have 3 mins to spare

    http://www.the-race-movie.com/

  13. hey buddy!!

    To me, you are an intelligent, smart and kind-hearted soul person. You possess that kind of determination and courage which not everyone has. And this makes a great difference within you ya!

    I really admired your courage to stay on, knowing what you want in your life and moving forward. As each step that you take, will lead you to your ultimate dream.

    I am sure you already knew the answer why you were doing that and for what purpose you are doing that, right ya ?

    I shall see you back in full force for the coming new year!

    Focus, Balance, Keep Moving ;)

    Cheers!

  14. Hey Rachit,
    good to hear that.

    shape reality to your desires.
    that’s the whole premise of that subculture i’ve been studying and talking to you about recently.

    if you won’t use the force, who will?

  15. hey dude, keep plugging away at your dream. its a lonely road for an entrepreneur. sometimes i think people underestimate that one bright spark of inspiration is nothing without truckloads of perspiration and sheer willpower to create success. maybe the formula for luck is somewhere in there. you just need time to find the right balance.

    Best of luck!

    Your friend, Bjorn

  16. Hey Rachit,

    Nice post. I really dunno much ab’t being an entrepreneur, but still post a comment!

    Overall, you are doing the right things – most entrepreneurs go through such phases – times when the going gets tough, but as you said, the key is to remain focused and look for opportunities. Azim Premji screwed up his oil business in Gujarat before making Wipro a big big success.

    The key is to keep learning from such situations and experiences. It is so much like playing a test match innings when you struggling for form. One needs a mindset of – “let me just go out and defend for 10-15 overs without worrying ab’t runs” – the time spent in the middle, helps in getting the form back, the concentration back, etc, etc. I am not a big fan of analogies, but test match cricket is so similar to our lives.

    Yeah, when we are young, we really don’t like to plan for contingencies. However, to avoid crazy situations, it might be wise to sometimes to look at things defensively and play it a bit safe. e.g.: when you start off as an entrepreneur, one thought could be “I am not going to compromise on the price point. I will charge a premium as I offer premium service, etc”. However, it takes time to build a brand, establish credibility, etc. So, while in the long term, it might make sense to stick to the “price premium” philosophy, one can be a bit defensive about it to start with – i.e. build client relationships that get the basic income and then look to build on it later on once the basic credibility, brand, etc is established. I know, this is something that you think is against your value system, but this is just another way to look at it. In short, take up contracts even if you think the entire thingie is not that challenging.

    Don’t worry bro, instead as you rightly said, the idea should be “what should I do”. Trust me, no matter what the outcome of this is, 2 years down the line, you will look and say “that was one good thing to happen, taught me tons ab’t professional side of life as well as managing myself/emotions”.

    ~anupam

  17. Bite on, hang on … and the light of the tunnel will present itself. :) Well, as long as it is not an incoming train everything will be fine.

  18. Ok Ok. I admit I’m pretty late here.

    What needs to be said, what I feel like saying has all been said. (Is this the reward for being one of the last, if not the last to come here and read your sob story?)

    So, just keep doing what you are passionate about, and just keep having faith in yourself.

    I was once in your shoes, stuck with my book and all that, plus all the panic and anxiety attacks. You name it, I have them all.

    Last night I had a session which reminds me to put my trust in God. I had forgotten about that! I thank my churchmates for reminding me. so, if you do have one, place your trust in Him too my dear friend.

    Believe, dream and do it!

    See you there!

    Cheers, Kloudiia :)

  19. hi first of all wish you a little belated happy new year:-)

    although i doubt i could help much, if there’s anything i could be of little help to you, i’ll be more than glad to do so because you did help me before.

    best of luck in 2007 and sure you’ll achieve your goal :-)

  20. [...] Alvin’s Start Your New Year In The Best Direction – Alvin from LifeCoachesBlog needs no introduction here. In fact, his own admission of a tough patch he was going through … was the inspiration for my lengthy post on the hard lessons I learnt last year. [...]

  21. Hi Rachit, I’m a regular reader of Alvin’s blog and you guys have cross-linked a bit recently.

    Rachit, you seem to know what you want to do, and what goals you want to reach for. That’s the most important thing. Kudos to you!

    I agree with this quote that you used. I agree with it as a life philosophy:
    “Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.”
    - Arnold H. Glasgow

    The right things are simple, should be simple, and should be direct.

    Also, in case you may enjoy these, here are two daily sources online about growing in the right directions and about living the good life: (my blog) senia.com and positive psychology news daily.

    Rachit, and finally because I feel busybodyish today, take care in the new year with two self-helping things: a regular 10pm-midnight bedtime and a regular exercise schedule. BEST TO YOU!

    S.

  22. [...] I have debated internally for a pretty long while whether or not to post this, as it certainly puts a vulnerable side of me out there. But I guess, like Rachit’s post on his tough road as an entrepreneur, if baring some privacy does a wee bit to lift someone up if he/she happens to be in the same rut as me, why not? [...]

  23. Hee, Senia’s a gem :)

  24. Sorry that I was a bit back dated. I hope you are better now. In any case you can take comfort from Pete cos he deleted 600 pages of his book BY CHOICE !

  25. Rachit > It was good meeting you yesterday at BarCamp. Reading your heartfelt account of the trials and tribulations of an entrepreneur was poignant to say the least. Most of us have entrepreneurial desires yet few take the risk, I’m sure you will be rewarded duly soon. Take care.

    Cheers,

    Dipankar

  26. Being an entrepreneur is not a tough thing to do. It has to be done with full of passion, persistency, being alert to new opportunities, and always strive to be better from past experiences.

    So all the best to all of you!

  27. [...] I know many friends who have such stories … one of my own stories (of getting back up from the dumps) has been very popular with my blog readers [...]

  28. If only you could see yourself now…3 years later, times have gotten a lot better right?

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